Have you ever gone to a session at a conference and been SO EXCITED about whatever you learned that you don’t eat, don’t sleep, don’t shower, and ignore everyone that you care about until you finally get the chance to try it out? No? That’s just a Martina thing? Shoot.

Language teachers love BreakoutEDU

Well this last summer, everyone at iFLT in Chattanooga was talking about Leslie Davison‘s BreakoutEDU session. Since we were always presenting at the same time, I didn’t get to attend in person and instead had to pump other attendees and Leslie for information about this mysterious activity that had Les locking her door at the scheduled session start time. Who does that, right?! Well when it comes to BreakoutEDU, you’ll probably be doing it too. I flew back to NY for a visit with my family immediately after iFLT and more or less forgot about BreakoutEDU. Then, when Jason Noble posted his BreakoutEDU activity for the novel Esperanza on election day, it all came flooding back to me. I HAD TO TRY THIS!!! But how? I don’t have a class since I’m home with my kids now, so I set to work creating a series of breakout boxes for my 4yo to practice his sight words. OH. MY. WORD. It was the most fun ever! He asks every day if he can do a breakout box, and like I said, I am spending all of my spare time and some of my not-spare time (adios, laundry!) creating puzzles for him.

Okay, blah blah blah, you get it, BreakoutEDU is great, but what the heck is it?

What is BreakoutEDU?

BreakoutEDU is essentially an Escape Room in a box. (If you’re unfamiliar with Escape Rooms, then of course that reference is completely useless to you.) In your room, you have a physical box with several locks on it, and students have to solve a puzzle or series of puzzles in order to be able to open each lock. Sometimes, there are several locked boxes to open in sequences; other times, there is just one box that is locked using a hasp and multiple locks. Some examples of puzzles that a student in a language class might solve in order to open a lock are:

  • Reading a story and then sequencing events from the story. Each event is assigned a random number. When the events are in the correct order, the students can read the randomly assigned numbers in chronological order to access the combination for a 3 or 4-digit combination lock.
  • Tracing a character’s path through a map and then using the changes in direction on the map to open a directional lock.
  • Solving a riddle in the target language to reveal the location of a key that is hidden in the room, and then using the key to open a key lock.

Truly, the possibilities are endless. Often, the activity begins by setting up a fictitious scenario and assigning a mission with a time limit.  An example might be, “You are visiting Paris with your family. You get lost and know that your family leaves on a train to Nice in 30 minutes. You have 30 minutes to get to the train station and buy a new ticket, or else you will be stranded in Paris!”

Purchase or create BreakoutEDU kits

I’m not sure which came first, the company or the activity, but there is a company called BreakoutEDU that sells Breakout Box kits and provides inspiration and support for teachers that are using Breakout activities. There are a good number of language teachers using them (I created this Facebook page for Spanish teachers that are using them yesterday), and one of them (the great and wonderful Julie Thompson that shares activities for EL MUNDO EN TUS MANOS each week!) told me that the BreakoutEDU kits ordered through the site take 2-3 months to arrive. You can build your own kit for just about the same amount of money with components from hardware stores and/or Amazon. Here is what you need:

BreakoutEDU lesson for Spanish Classes

Since I LOVE planning lessons and activities, I of course set to work creating an activity for Spanish teachers to take and use. I had recently watched the 2016 Spanish Christmas lottery commercial, and even though I told someone that I was not planning to create an activity for it…well, I changed my mind! The Christmas lottery is one of my favorite cultural lessons, and I love finding new ways to work with the commercials after they are released each year. This was the perfect opportunity!!

In the 2016 commercial, an elderly woman thinks that she has won the lottery when her ticket matches the winning ticket number announced on TV–the only problem is that she saw the lottery on December 21; not December 22 (the annual lottery date). She saw a recording of the lottery announcement from a previous year, not this year’s lottery! Not wanting to steal her joy, her family and the entire town work together to keep the illusion going and convince her that she has, indeed, won El Gordo, “The Big One”.

My Breakout activity comes in at the end of the commercial: the last thing needed to convince Carmina that she has really won the lottery is to somehow procure 4 million euros. Thankfully, her son knows somehow whose brother’s cousin’s friend is a generous Mexican millionaire. He is willing to give her son the money, but he needs a few things first. To download the FREE Breakout Box activity for the 2016 lottery, click here!

Download the Breakout Box here!

32 replies on “BreakoutEDU in language classes

  1. OH MY GOODNESS!!!!! I LOVE IT!!!! Thank you so much for sharing this! I have been wanting to do one, but just couldn’t get one made. I can’t wait to try this!!!!

  2. Breakoutedu feels like it is my life!! I am a part-time instructional coach and part-time Spanish teacher. I have done 2 test runs with adults in my building. Next week I am trying my first “homemade” version with a Spanish III class. If you have someone in your building or district with experience with the breakouts, they can help you tailor one. The more clues you have seen and experienced, the easier it is to create them. BUT don’t try to do one quickly. The clues for this Spanish III class have evolved over the last 2 weeks. You need to develop these, not crank them out.

  3. LOVE THIS IDEA!! Gracias. Just curious – if the links to the products listed above all work together? Are these the same items you bought? Thanks! Can’t wait to get started!

  4. Wish I’d gone to the session after all! Love this idea, but still not sure I understand completely… However this works, I’m sure my students would love it. Thanks for putting it together!

  5. This is great! Thank you for creating it! My only question is how are the students divided? Are the students placed in groups or do they figure it out as a class? Thanks!

  6. How would this work for big classes? So they all work together or break up into smaller groups? Thanks!

    1. I separated my kids into smaller groups. But it depends on the “puzzles” that they need to solve. You want to keep everyone busy, not 3-4 working on something and no one else can see over their heads. Do you have puzzles with multiple parts that can be solved simultaneously? If so, you can have larger teams.

  7. I love the idea of a breakout box! I also love to use el Sorteo in a lesson or two at this time of year. This year, I couldn’t get it together to buy all the breakout box materials, so I was going to skip using this fantastic idea…and then I realized that I could do it anyway, using myself as the “box”. I set my room up tonight before leaving work and am going to see how it goes tomorrow. Instead of trying combinations (I know it’s probably oodles more fun to have a tactile experience), students will just run their codes by me for access to the next part of the puzzle. At the end, they’ll retrieve the prize letter from a box and exchange it for a real prize with me.

  8. First off, I LOVE your projects. They tie into a theme and you make the quizzes flow together easily. Since I don’t teach Spanish I’ve been using your ideas to make my own English version. I had a question about the directional maze. With the arrows some squares end up with multiple true and false arrows. Am I misunderstanding the way to navigate through it?

  9. Ah, I see. Very clever. It works for your answers. I used the same format as a template to create a different maze. I see now that you made it so even though some arrows themselves lead you to different squares, you have to read through and choose the right square. Thank you again for these generous resources. I have looked through the different games on the breakout edu site, but couldn’t grasp how to use it in a language classroom. This activity and the newer ‘Cuba o Casa’ one have been very helpful!

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